Towards A New Agency Theory

Professional public relations agencies play a pivotal role in the success of Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) projects initiated by Governments, writes Sunil Nair

Let's embark on this brief discourse by boldly asserting a sentiment that resonates in contemporary times – that data and information are the new oil fuelling the engine of the global economy. Arguably, few would contest the validity of this assertion. Each day, an expanding repository of literature floods various media channels, extolling the prowess of data and analytics in shaping not only businesses but even Governments.

However, conspicuously absent from this dialogue surrounding the supremacy of data or information and its significance in today's world is a discussion on public relations agencies and their precise role in delivering information to the intended audience with surgical precision. This, I believe, is a notable gap that requires prompt attention.

This void becomes even more pronounced as public policies intertwined with developmental goals become intricately linked with Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) projects. While the 'I' and 'E' facets of such projects fall within the purview of state or non-state entities, the success of the 'C' component hinges largely on professional agencies capable of devising strategies tailored to these projects, yielding optimal outcomes.

Critics may question why external agencies should be entrusted with delivering optimal results. Let's address the first query. Why agencies? Because the state and non-state actors steering IEC projects often lack the specialised expertise to effectively communicate crucial information to the target audience. This task is complex, demanding resources not only for content generation, design, and packaging but also for precise delivery to specific socio-economic groups.

As for 'how,' professional public relations agencies possess the requisite skill sets not only to connect with target audiences but also to conduct intricate data mining, enabling them to precisely identify the target audience at a granular level beyond the capabilities of other entities – whether state or non-state. Additionally, these agencies have developed tools to impartially monitor project outcomes and possess a feedback mechanism that accurately captures responses, facilitating adaptive modifications to the project design based on audience feedback.

At Concept, we've honed communication strategies for IEC projects over the years, consistently refining them as the landscape evolves with the advent of new technologies like generative AI. As a senior executive and a decision-maker, I confidently assert that our capabilities align with global benchmarks, and we spare no effort in benchmarking against global best practices. These endeavours have culminated in partnerships with IEC programs across several state governments, including Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, and Goa, to name a few. I hasten to add that our engagement with these states is strictly at a government or administrative level, devoid of political affiliations.

In closing, I advocate for the introduction of a new agency theory, reimagining the concept popularised by Michael C. Jensen and William Meckling in the 1970s. While their approach pertained to conflict resolution between economic agents within an organisation, it underscores the potency of communication in resolving conflicts at the organisational level. The proposed new agency theory should emphasise the role of communication experts or public relations agencies in optimizing results from IEC projects. In simpler terms, these new tenets should illuminate how agencies can catalyse transformation in IEC projects, and how state and non-state actors can proactively partner with professional agencies to remain at the forefront of the IEC arena.

(Sunil Nair is a seasoned communication strategist and public relations expert. He currently serves as the Executive Director at Concept Public Relations)

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